Right from the start, Meryl Streep shows how she perfectly she is always able to develop the technical parts of her characters – her broken face, her tears, her desperation are clearly visible when she wishes her son good-night before she leaves him. It’s clear that Joanna is not selfish when she leaves her family behind but instead sees it as the best solution for everyone because she realizes that she is close to a breakdown – the life she leads does not fulfill her anymore and her unhappiness has turned into a deep depression when she finally finds the will to leave. When she tells her husband Ted about her plans and talks with him in the hallway, Meryl Streep presents some of her most unaffected work – her desperation, her plea to let her go, her refusal to go back inside, the way she touches her wedding ring, everything is completely authentic and helps Meryl Streep to tell the audience all about her character in just a few short moments before she leaves the movie for a great deal of time.
When the character returns, Meryl Streep still shows her nervous sides but she reduced them to demonstrate that Joanna has truly found herself and is not the same woman she was when she left Ted and her son. Her scene with Dustin Hoffman in a little café is incredibly authentic as both actors portray a fake friendliness while slowly circling each other about their son.
Later, Meryl Streep gets a lot of opportunities to demonstrate her ability to cry – during her monologue in the witness stand, after the session and later at the end. In all these scenes, Meryl Streep opens Joanna up more and more, finds new sides in her and lets the audience and the other characters understand her intentions better and better.
Like her other Oscar-winning role in Sophie’s Choice, Joanna Kramer is not a very complex character and Meryl Streep follows the script with a performance that offers little surprises. But Meryl Streep always fills these limitations of her characters with so much detail, so much life and so much technical brilliance that the results are almost always glorious.
A strong and powerful performance that works as a great counterpart to the work by Dustin Hoffman.